Coroner rules on fate of man who disappeared on road trip
A CORONER has ruled out foul play in the disappearance of Jayden Penno-Tompsett and found he likely died due to "exposure to the elements" in remote bushland during a drug-fuelled road trip to Cairns.
The 22-year-old was travelling from Newcastle with a friend Lucas Tattersall to celebrate New Year's Eve in December 2017 and the pair took drugs throughout the trip before Mr Penno-Tompsett was last seen early on December 31 near Charters Towers.
A three-day inquest was held into his disappearance in the Cairns Coroners Court, hearing from members of the missing man's family, other friends, police, search experts and Mr Tattersall.
Mr Penno-Tompsett's mother Rachel Penno had maintained her son may have been murdered due to drug debts and had asked for that to be considered as a possible finding.
But Coroner Nerida Wilson concluded "on the totality of the evidence" he had perished in the hot conditions - which peaked around 40 degrees - some time between the day he vanished and when he was eventually reported missing on January 3, 2018.
She said he and Mr Tattersall had argued as he had believed his ice was missing, before he walked away from the car. No trace of him has ever been found.
Magistrate Wilson said his friends had hesitated in reporting him missing due to a misguided belief there was a warrant out for his arrest and he might be in possession of drugs, and also unaware how remote Charters Towers was.
She also found there was "no evidence at all" Mr Tattersall had harmed Mr Penno-Tompsett in any way.
The pair had been on the road virtually non-stop and without sleeping for more than 30 hours and Magistrate Wilson found he had been taking a significant quantity of ice and had not slept for two days prior to the start of their trip.
She found he was "mentally quite vulnerable" prior to the trip having been in conflict with his mother and a neighbour, recently splitting with a partner and losing his job.
A missing persons report was also active in New South Wales at the time, likely due to Mr Penno-Tompsett's fears authorities would take him to a mental health facility.
"There are no words to convey my deep and most sincere condolences for your most devastating loss," Magistrate Wilson said to Mr Penno-Tompsett's family.
No family members chose to talk outside court.
Originally published as Coroner rules on fate of man who disappeared on NQ road trip